How old are we now?

May 10 , 1999

May is a busy month for birthdays in the Gehlke family, and none is bigger for us Oakley Gehlkes than Benji's. Our youngest family member hit the Big 5 on May 2 and we celebrated in grand fashion throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, May 1, we held a backyard birthday party and carnival with a list of attendees that included Glenn's folks, Roni's sister Jacki and her family, and several kids from Benji's preschool. Benji and his new friends James, Cody and Tessa took part in a variety of games Roni cooked up for the occasion, testing their skill and having fun while winning prizes. Donning colorful plastic derby hats, the party-goers tried their hands at hooking prizes in the fishing booth, scooping out winning numbers in the duck pond, knocking down targets at the tin can toss, sinking baskets from the free-throw line and blowing bubbles at the bubble station.

Among the most popular attractions was the train bean bag toss in which the contestants attempted to flip homemade bean bags through the windows of a Union Pacific diesel locomotive. The train wasn't real, of course; it was Glenn's handiwork created from plans in one of his Model Railroader magazines and transferred onto 3/4-inch plywood. From start to finish the project took a couple of days to build. With its party duties complete it will now become a planter in Roni's garden, but more on that subject later...

When the kids tired of party games it was time for cake and ice cream under the gazebo. Then it was off to the living room for the opening of presents and playtime. Benji made out like a bandit, thanks to the gifts of his party guests, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors and Roni's business clients. We thank all of those whose gifts helped brighten our little boy's big day, as well as those who sent birthday greetings through traditional and electronic mail.

After the party ended, Glenn and Roni's folks lingered for lunch and visiting amid the streamers and helium-filled balloons that provided a colorful backdrop for the day's festivities.

On May 2, Benji's actual birthday, we celebrated as a threesome with a special trip to Jamestown for a ride on the steam train at Railtown 1897. (Pictures of the visit will appear soon at Milepost 1147.2.) It was a major milestone for Benji because it was his first time on a steamer -- mainly because it was the first time he had ever let us take him on one. He did pretty well, but he still isn't crazy about the loud whistle and steam blasts. Nonetheless, it was good preparation for next month's visit to Railfair '99 in Sacramento.

With the birthday money sent to him by his great grandparents Henry and Sorenson, Benji purchased his first pair of inline roller skates and spent an exciting afternoon learning how to use them. He is building his confidence right now. It was a lot like watching him take his first baby steps over four years ago -- "Come to Mom! You can do it. Good boy! Now, back to Dad..."

Also during the past month we got Benji his first pet, a small comet goldfish that he dubbed "Goldie" after a character on one of his favorite cartoon shows. Alas, Goldie's life with us was a brief seven days. Benji took the loss in stride, however, and soon "Dorothy" was swimming in his fish bowl. Dorothy was a much larger comet than Goldie -- cost a whopping 25 cents! But unfortunately, mortality has no respect for mass or expense and we were bidding him (her?) adieu after just five days. Well, it's third time lucky we hope. On May 9 we purchased "Pink Streamliner" and "Silver Streamliner," a pair of diminutive white clouds that so far are still with us. We'll keep you posted.

Roni continues to battle the forces of nature where her garden is concerned. After a windy April that undid much of her spring planting, she doggedly repaired the damage and has been tending to the watering chores every day. We are beginning to see corn stalks, peppers and tomatoes. We are enjoying a bumper crop of strawberries at the moment, as are the local blue jays that find them a tasty supplement to their usual diet of bird seed and insects. We have placed black netting over the berries and the bing cherry tree, realizing that as soon as the cherries start to turn red they will be an easy target for our winged friends. The grapes and boysenberries are both showing signs that they will be good producers for us this year, so we are keeping a close eye on them.

When not combatting illness, which continues to be a recurring theme this spring, Glenn has been engaging in fence repair. This month he put up a replacement post on the fence that separates us from the BNSF mainline. That project came on the heels of a similar repair job on another fence in the yard. If he gets good enough at fence repair, Glenn might want to branch out and offer his services to others -- or not.

Turning again to the birthday scene, Glenn's sister and mother both celebrate big days later this month so we are hoping we can all get together again for family celebrations. It is tough to get everyone in one place at the same time these days, given everyone's bizarre work schedules. Until next we meet, hope everyone has a good month.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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